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Guide to being a good manager in a remote workplace

Effectively managing a remote team requires certain skills. Find out what traits it takes to be a great remote manager.
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We've all had that boss at some point in our lives: the one you couldn't stand! You avoided them at all costs at work and told your friends horror stories about them outside of work.


If you're a manager, being that boss is probably your worst nightmare.

The good news? You can follow some simple management principles to be a good manager — the kind of boss workers love.

Many of the qualities that make a good manager in an in-person office environment also apply in a remote work setting; however, remote managers also need additional skills to successfully manage their teams across distances.

When you're overseeing a remote team, you have to go the extra mile to establish clear expectations, maintain good communication, and ensure workers are engaged and motivated.

So, how can you be a good manager for your remote team? Read on to find out.

What makes a good manager?

A good manager helps teams achieve their goals efficiently and successfully. The manager helps ensure teams are working together and individuals within the team are growing and achieving their personal objectives.

A good manager maintains oversight and control without "micromanaging" — constantly checking in with employees (nobody likes their boss breathing down their neck). We'll admit, it's a fine line to walk.

Great managers have a few key traits, including:

  • Leadership skills. Dealing with an incompetent manager can be really tough for an employee. In fact, lack of sound leadership is one of the main reasons people quit their jobs. On the other hand, having a great manager can make all the difference. Great managers inspire their teams to work hard and go the extra mile. Great leaders plan, delegate tasks, and exhibit savvy decision-making. For example, if something goes wrong with a project deliverable, the issue may be escalated to the manager. As the leader, they are responsible for determining how to proceed.
  • Management skills. Management skills is an umbrella term referring to a lot of different managerial qualities, like time management, project management, and organizational skills. For example, managers need to be able to juggle their own workload while overseeing the work of each individual team member, ensuring all deliverables are completed on time. This requires great organization skills!
  • Conflict resolution abilities. Most work environments bring together a lot of people from different backgrounds and cultures. It's normal for team members to disagree in such diverse environments. A good manager should have conflict resolution skills to mediate disagreements, so work can continue as usual. Managers should also encourage team building in line with company culture and values.
  • Communication skills. A manager needs to clearly convey tasks to their team. Thus, communication is a great soft skill to have. They also need to receive feedback from workers without bias. Good verbal and written communication skills are essential. In-person communication also encompasses both verbal and nonverbal forms, such as facial expressions and body language. Regardless of the format, effective communication means workers know what to do and when to do it, without any confusion.
  • A goal-oriented attitude. Goal setting helps teams define objectives and reach goals. Team leaders are responsible for setting these big targets and ensuring teams stay on track to meet them. This requires a big picture approach that individual workers may ignore — but managers have to keep in mind. You can set both team goals and individual goals. Goals should be measurable and realistic to keep teams from getting overly stressed. A good leader also offers incentives for goals and celebrates wins! These acts can improve employee retention.

4 traits of a great remote manager

In addition to having the traits described above, a great remote manager will possess a few more characteristics that help them thrive in a virtual setting. Here's a roundup of the most important points.

1. Self-aware

A self-aware person accurately understands their own personality traits, values, and feelings. Self-awareness allows managers to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, relate to their teams, and understand individual workers on a personal level. Self-awareness is also needed to communicate effectively with team members.

Let’s say a manager tends to be very blunt, which can come across as rude. This is especially risky in remote settings where they can't counter a blunt tone with positive body language (like smiling). A self-aware manager will identify and work on this weakness. They may take part in training sessions and pick up tips to reduce their bluntness, such as using more positive words and expressing gratitude toward workers. This makes for a better remote manager.

2. Empathetic

Empathy refers to the ability to identify with or understand another person's feelings. Managers who can put themselves in their worker's shoes will be able to build a better rapport with them. An empathetic manager can understand the hurdles that are holding an employee back from success and help them overcome those hurdles, benefitting both the individual and the team.

Let’s say a manager notices that a worker is very quiet in the weekly team Zoom meeting. From a one-on-one chat, they learn that the team member feels alienated. An empathetic manager may offer solutions, like organizing remote team building activities (virtual escape room, anyone?!). The team member will then be more comfortable with their team and more likely to be a vocal contributor in future meetings. Their voice will be heard and the team will benefit as a whole.

3. Servant leader 

Servant leadership refers to a management style in which the leader (the manager) doesn't speak down to their team but aims to support them. In the remote working world, a servant leader approach makes managers more accessible to their workers. Instead of being authoritative and bossy, they can make it clear that they are there to help workers thrive.

This is especially important in remote work, where team members may need extra support to do their jobs. For example, instead of simply assigning duties and telling team members to get the job done, a servant leader may ask, "What do you need to get this work done to the best of your abilities?" In the remote sphere, this could require investing in new technologies to help everyone perform better and improve collaboration.

4. Detail-oriented 

A detail-oriented person pays attention to small things that others may miss. For managers, this could mean noticing small changes in project deliverables, for example. Since managers often provide the final sign-off on projects, this attention to detail is a must. It could also mean picking up on subtle changes within teams.

For example, let’s say a manager notices that a team member who is usually friendly and calm seems short-tempered (e.g., they're getting snappy on Zoom calls). The manager might take the time to see what's going on only to learn that the team member is overloaded with work. The manager can reassign some duties, reducing the individual's stress, boosting employee morale, and improving the team's overall harmony.

7 tips for being a successful manager in a remote work environment

We’ve discussed some of the key characteristics needed to be a great remote manager. Those traits aside, great management also requires you to take certain actions to succeed, especially in a remote work environment. Here's how to be a good manager for a remote team.

1. Be approachable 

When workers are facing challenges, they should be able to turn to their manager for support. Approachable managers invite their employees to communicate issues so they can be fixed before they become serious problems. However, being approachable is harder when you're in a remote environment; workers can't tap on your office door or strike up a conversation at lunch.

Be approachable by being accessible. Continually remind employees that they can come to you with problems and specify how they can reach you. Also, consider setting up "office hours" during which workers can take advantage of a virtual "open door" policy for one-on-one time.

2. Delegate responsibilities 

A good manager doesn't do everything themselves. Rather, they delegate responsibilities clearly to their teams. You can create project spaces with set deliverables within a project management app and assign specific tasks to co-workers.

3. Make precise standards for remote work productivity 

One of the biggest fears in remote work cultures is that employee engagement will decrease and workers will be less productive. Address this by setting clear goals for productivity. Enlist measurable key performance indicators (KPIs), goals, and milestones that you and your team can access.

For example, if you have a content writer on your team, you might expect them to complete a certain number of blog posts in a given timeframe. If you're dealing with a sales team, you might expect them to meet certain set sales targets in a quarter.

4. Be sensitive to overworking and overloading 

On the flip side, remote workers can burn out because they work too much. This can happen when the lines between professional and personal time blur. Ask workers to set clear timeframes during which they will be available on remote tools like Slack and Asana. Outside of those hours, they should set their status as "Away" or "Do Not Disturb."

As the manager, you should respect those statuses. You can also do your part by being aware of how much work you are assigning others. If an employee starts to miss deadlines or otherwise "slip" on the job, they may be overworked. Hard work is good but burnout is not!

5. Gather feedback regularly 

The best way to assess a manager is to ask their employees! In performance reviews, request constructive feedback on concrete points like what you could improve on and which processes could be better streamlined. Remote workplaces might consider using online survey tools to gather feedback. Bonus: These can be anonymized, giving you more honest answers!

6. Don’t neglect one-on-ones

One-on-one meetings give employees the chance to check in with their manager. This creates a safe space away from other workers to voice concerns privately. Schedule regular one-on-ones (at least once a month but ideally more often) with each team member. Make this a video chat for a more intimate conversation.

7. Ensure the right tools are available and accessible

Finally, remote managers can support their team's success by ensuring all members have the tools and technology they need. Do remote workers have the hardware they need, like a good computer and monitor? Do they have fast internet? Do they have a comfortable workstation? Consider technologies to boost communication, productivity, and collaboration, like:

  • Asana. Asana is a project management tool that helps remote teams organize and track projects. You can create project spaces and assign tasks to workers within each space. Plus, you can send files via the tool, minimizing the need for email.
  • Dropbox. Dropbox is a cloud storage solution that gives remote workers secure access to all of the files they need to get their work done. Workers can also share files with other team members and clients.
  • Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool that helps team members stay connected. Use it to call and chat with team members and hold virtual meetings to keep everyone updated.
  • OSlash. Long URLs can be hard to manage and remember. For example, finding a complicated hyperlink in an old chat or email message can be time-consuming. With OSlash, your remote team can transform long URLs into simple, easy-to-find shortcuts. OSlash also has a search function, making it even easier to access and surface knowledge or resources in a workplace.
  • SavvyCal. SavvyCal Meeting Polls is the easiest way to invite people to vote on a set of times to meet and then simply book the one that works best. It's free to use, 100% ad-free, and you can connect all your calendars.

Power productivity and make collaboration easier with OSlash shortcuts

As an effective manager, you want your team to thrive. Their success is your success; if they're performing well, it means you're doing a good job. The right tools help you all work together by enhancing communication and productivity.

One must-have for your remote team? OSlash. This agile tool makes it easy for team members to share informative links quickly and accurately. You can better organize and manage work-relevant links and find them using a cross-app search function. Never have your client waiting on you while you search for that hidden invoice document. With OSlash, type o/invoice into your browser and — BAM! — you’ve got exactly what you need to assist your client. 

No more time wasted scouring old chats, emails, and bookmark folders for old links. Turbocharge your team performance today by leveraging OSlash.

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